A/N: Finally done! I've got your Freddie Mercury, Duke Ellington, AND Burt Bacharach somewhere in there. (That isn't what took me so long.) Anyway, enjoy!

...

"Close your eyes and see."

Ulysses, James Joyce, 45.16-17

...

8. Close Your Eyes and Slooshy

A starry grey-haired devotchka stood in front of the enormous class. "Welcome everybody. My name is Gabrielle Ravel, current President of his Institution." She gave a very big smile. "I understand it's either your first or second day at the Geoffrey Plautus Music Conservatory. Tuesday morning choir practice has been a tradition, since this school started, for all our first year students..."

I yawned, covering my just-brushed zoobies with a polite rooker. At oh nine oh one, the morning was very molodoy, and I was still fashed and dashed and all that. I mean tired, brothers. I'd stayed up late last night with Melody. No need to smeck at that—we didn't even touch goobers, we'd been too busy chasing after her malenky baddiwad brother. And before that I'd gone to the Korova and met with Len and Rick and Bully from my last shaika.

I did not think I wanted to meet them again.

Around me were one or two hundred malchicks and devotchkas, some govoreeting in whispers, others good and quiet. I was in an auditorium-like mesto, with the floor sloping up up up at the back, but it was for classes and not concerts.

President-of-this-Institution Ravel had three other lewdies up front with her, seated at three different pianos. One was Geoffrey Plautus from America, the like founder of the college and also my Composition teacher, and the others two middle-aged devotchkas. The grey-haired cheena finished her speech with something that made me very poogly and nervous. An audition veshch was vareeting right now.

Immediately the whole mass of malchicks and devotchkas, some chat-chat-chatting away, made three lines in front of the pianos. In my distress I govoreeted out loud. "Audition audition? I did not know about an audition. I was not informed. What are we to audition?"

A ptitsa in front of me jumped at my voice. She turned around real skorry, tolchocking my foot with her malenky walking-stick. Her platties were all black, matching her sunglasses, and her voloss short and blond. "Sorry. But who are you?"

It was Mel and Harmeet's friend Sonya—short for Sonietta or Sonatina or some such eemya—the know-it-all ptitsa from Composition. Suddenly I felt a strange feeling, like pity or some such veshch, remembering she hadn't been born blind. Len, Rick, and Bully had made her so. I shook my gulliver not to think of that, brothers, and replied, "Alex De Large, your classmate. Er, do you know what this audition is for?"

Sonya's pletchoes relaxed. "Ah yes. Sorry. Your voice startled me a little... but of course yes, you're that Alex." Her goobers widened in a grin. "The one Melody fancies."

Some malchick bumped into me and I realized the line was moving forward. At least Sonya could not see my rot hanging open in surprise. "Melody... said..."

She twirled her walk-stick in a little circle on the floor. "Yes, yes. She told me about you. Love at first sight. Very swoony, as I used to say. Anyway, we're auditioning for parts."

"Parts," I repeated like some dim shoot. "Parts, you say. Parts of what?"

She rolled her whole gulliver, like how a seeing person would roll their glazzies. "Voice parts, of course. Like soprano or alto or tenor. Weren't you listening?"

"Listening. Hmm." Being quiet, I could slooshy, past all the chatter, some piano notes and a malchick singing them back.

Sonya listened too. "About a quarter-tone flat." And she turned her back to me.

...

Then I tried an experiment: I closed my glazzies to slooshy the voices around me.

Oh, did you make it to Greece this summer? An upper-class female goloss.

No, we just did the Riviera tour. And Naples. We did Naples.

And I did your mum, said another veck, not as dignified.

I doubt that, said the second one, and again: I spent like eight hundred euros. Bloody exchange rate.

From a different direction: When's this over? Big Band's next and I hear we're doing Duke Ellington.

So, not Naples or some veck's em. But who the hell was the Duke of Ellington?

A devotchka's voice: Oh, I like the record with 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love.' Too bad I have Advanced Acoustics.

Advanced acoustics? Was that a disease?

Then, next to me, I heard a clear high voloss warbling Bach, "Bist du bel mir..."

I opened my glazzies. Sonya was singing to the cheena at the piano, a plump pink-cheeked lady.

"Beautiful. Soprano One." The professor lady marked some veshch on a sheet. "Farthest on your left, dear."

I was next.

...

Brothers, I hadn't known I was supposed to sing a song. My rookers felt very shaky, and my rassoodock blank. This professor lady smiled at me and said in like a Welsh accent: "Go ahead, luv, any song you know."

And, believe it or kiss my sharries, I opened my rot and started to sing "Wives and Lovers" by this veck Burtie Bacharach, it being an oldie warble my Em liked: "Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your makeup, soon he will o-o-pen the door..."

She started to smeck.

I stopped. "Why, what's the matter?"

"Nothing, dearie, you're quite the charmer," she said, laughing. "But if you want your wife to get dolled up for you, you'd best be prepared to dress up too."

"Well, well, I am not actually married."

She giggled again—"Only teasing, dearie"—then played higher notes and lower notes. I could sing most of the lower ones. "Very good, dear. Bass One. To your right."

...

I moved through the crowd of young vecks and cheenas still waiting in line. I viddied the middle-right seats filling up with malchicks, but these were all Tenor Ones; then Tenor Twos; then—"Oh, hello," said a familiar spectacled litso.

"Harmony Singh!" I said in relief.

A malchick next to him, Chinese in appearance, raised his glazz-brows. "How'd you know we called him Harmony? We've been calling him that since first grade, because of his sister Melody and all."

Harmeet's litso was red. "Bobby, QUIET. But welcome to Bass One, Alex... Ahem. Base One," he said, as if talking in a headpiece. "Command centre of the imperial fleet."

"You are a nerd," said another veck coming up behind me. He looked a bit like Harmeet but taller, with a bolshy double bass case strapped to his back like a turtle shell.

"Jatin Parminder!" said Harmeet Singh. "Join the club."

Jatin laughed and set the instrument down. "I heard Mrs. Jones call this one a charmer." He elbowed me. "A real ladykiller, it seems. He was just chatting up Sonietta Keyes. You know, the smartest girl in first year."

Chatting up, indeed. Why do some malchicks speak such odd slovos?

Harmeet frowned, then tried to smile. "You think she's smarter than my sister?"

"Melody is smart," said Jatin carefully. "And, well, I'm sure I don't know why Vijay left her."

"Money," said Harmeet bluntly. "He got a better job offer in Austria."

The other malchick, Bobby, held out his rooker to me. "I'm Bobby Lee Chang. Guitar, trumpet, French horn."

I shook it. "Alex De Large. I, er, I compose. And warble a bit. I mean sing."

"Yes?" Harmeet, startled, turned around.

"Sing. S-I-N-G," like sniffed Bobby. "And speaking of which, I see our scores coming round."

"Oh oh oh," went Jatin. "Did I win?"

Bobby tried to look down on Jatin, which he couldn't, brothers, because Jatin was taller. All of a sudden Harmeet dumped a pile of papers in my rookers, and I viddied "Hallelujah Chorus" by G. F. Handel.

"Hurry up, pass the rest on," went Jatin, so I did. I made sure I sobiratted all the music before smotting at it. I viddied Francis Poulenc's Gloria, an arrangement of "White Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" (and it still only September), a very strange piece called "Epitaph for Moonlight" by R. Murray Schafer, and an even stranger rock-and-roll veshch with a classical title.

Bobby Lee Chang like jumped at this last one. "Bohemian Rhapsody! Yes!"

"Oh oh oh," went Jatin again. "Were's four of us right here. We could be like Queen."

Poor Harmony was still razdraz, though I didn't know why. "I hardly know them."

"I'm Freddie Mercury!" Bobby fluffed up his hair and posed dramatically.

"Sure, be the dead guy," grumbled Harm, which like startled me. Because I'd just been comparing the three to my old droogs—Harm to Pete, Jatin to Dim, and Bobby to Georgie. Poor dead Georgie. Still, it was his fault he was a traitor. Dim's fault too. If I ever found Dim again, by Bog...

Bobby raised his rookers like he was playing piano. "Mama, just killed a man..." he sang.

Jatin held up his own right rooker, his glazzies on the score. "Wait wait, they don't have that verse. They have everything else, just not that part."

"Really? Why?" Harmeet asked. So he did know the song after all. I was the only like ignorant malchick.

Bobby snorted. "Guess someone thought it encouraged violence. As if you'd listen to a song and go out and shoot someone."

I thought on that a minoota. "Right right. Or as if slooshying Beethoven would make you want to knife a veck."

But he smecked haw haw haw. "Beethoven? As if!"

...

President-of-this-Institution Ravel had left the room when Geoffrey Plautus stood up and waved his arms for silence. "All right, folks!" his American goloss boomed. "We've just a few minutes left for practice."

This razz, practice only meant warm-up exercises, not singing the lovely Poulenc or Handel or even that merzky rock song. And as I was leaving I caught Dave Purcell's proud glazzy. Dave was the young veck I rabbited with in the National Gramodisc Archive and my classmate in Composition—as you know, brothers. This time he just smotted at me with this joking but superior look, saying, "Bass One? Bass Two is for the real men."

Harmeet was at him real skorry, skazatting this: "But we sing mostly the same parts."

Harmless Harmony had reason. Only when the bass part split would Bass Two sing lower.

Dave Purcell nodded, as if agreeing, and then smiled at me like innocent. "Just remember, Alex, I do know who you are."